Visions of a federal Europe: Ventotene and the ‘Resistance Spring’

Visions of a federal Europe: Ventotene and the ‘Resistance Spring’

In my previous post I wrote about the disturbing experience of visiting Vught Concentration Camp just outside ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. Run by the SS, Vught served as a transit camp for Jews before they were transported east to the death camps.  But also incarcerated in the camp were large numbers of Resistance activists and fighters, many of whom were executed by firing squad at a woodland site just outside the camp.

On the morning I visited Vught the news was dominated by the first shots in the referendum campaign which will determine, in June, whether the UK remains a member of, or leaves, the European Union. Confronted at Vught by the stories of members of the resistance imprisoned or murdered there, I recalled that one of the overlooked origins of European integration emerged from within the wartime Resistance movement. Continue reading “Visions of a federal Europe: Ventotene and the ‘Resistance Spring’”

After Bosch: Visions of a 20th century hell

After Bosch: Visions of a 20th century hell

Loop Visions of a hell where unspeakable cruelties are inflicted upon the damned by fearsome devils who take the utmost pleasure in their satanic work. I emerged from the 16th century nightmares of Hieronymus Bosch on display in the unparalleled 500th anniversary exhibition at Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch into the bright sunlight of a spring afternoon. An hour later, after a ten minute bus ride out of town, I came face to face with the barbarity of a 20th century hell.

Vught was the only official SS concentration camp in occupied northwest Europe, established in occupied Holland. Political prisoners began its construction in May 1942. The first inmates arrived at the camp before it was finished at the end of 1942, the already famished and abused prisoners marched from the railway station in the village of Vught along country lanes to the camp. Socialists, communists and trade unionists, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and Roma – and, above all, Jews. There were families: married couples with their children, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Continue reading “After Bosch: Visions of a 20th century hell”

Ensemble 10/10 explore Europe’s 20th century fault lines

Ensemble 10/10 explore Europe’s 20th century fault lines

In the gilded elegance of the Concert Room in St Georges Hall last week, Ensemble 10/10 led a small but enthusiastic audience on a journey through the aesthetic and  political fault lines that shattered 20th century Europe.

As always, Ensemble 10/10 – a splinter group from the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – was led by Clark Rundell, who always communicates energy and enthusiasm for the pieces on the programme. I like these occasions for Rundell’s concise, informed introductions to each work, and because I get to hear music that is challenging and which I met never otherwise get to hear.

For example, the main event at last week’s concert was to be the world première of Bosnian Voices by Nigel Osborne, unknown to me at that point, whose new work sets to music verses composed by people of all faiths and backgrounds from the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia. Continue reading “Ensemble 10/10 explore Europe’s 20th century fault lines”

Stumbling over the past in Berlin

Stumbling over the past in Berlin

Just around the corner from the hotel where we stayed in Berlin, in cobbled and tree-lined Fasanenstrasse, I found outside number 42 eight small brass plaques embedded in the pavement. They record the deportation from this town house of eight Jewish Berliners to their deaths in the east. Continue reading “Stumbling over the past in Berlin”